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Sizzling Stars shut down Ducks 3-1

by Curtis Zupke /
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- All those who didn't think the Dallas Stars would be a factor in the Pacific Division this season might want to re-think their prognostications.
Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves and Loui Eriksson scored two goals as Dallas defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 Friday night in a battle between two Pacific Division teams off to fast starts.

Lehtonen improved to 6-0-0 as he outplayed Anaheim's Jonas Hiller and broke Marty Turco's team record for most victories without a loss to start a season.

Dallas' 6-1-0 start is its best since it began the 2006-07 season 8-1-0, but Friday was a statement victory considering only one of its previous five wins came against a team with a winning record -- the Ducks had won their last four games after losing their opener.

But Lehtonen was brilliant again as he withstood a 36-shot barrage by Anaheim, including 14 shots in the third, and held his ground on a late Ducks power play.

"Fortunately and unfortunately, we're relying on him to make a lot of those saves," captain Brenden Morrow said.

"But we're kind of getting used to it. He's been huge for us all year. We're getting outshot almost double some nights. We've had one or two where we've had real good efforts and the ones where we've scratched and clawed and found a couple of goals and Kari's been huge for us, and that was the case tonight."

Dallas has been outshot by an aggregate total of 239-173 in seven games as their blueprint has been to sit back and look for chances.

But Lehtonen isn't concerned.

"You have to look at the other way, too," Lehtonen said. "We've been getting the lead early and it just happens that other teams start shooting more and getting more pressure in our zone."

The Stars started 5-1-0 last season and still missed the playoffs by two points, so they are understandably restrained about their hot start.

"What happened last year -- we know and remember how hard that was," Lehtonen said. "We don't want that to happen again. On the other hand, we started where we are last year, too, and we faded away a bit when other teams started to get better, so hopefully we can work and get better as a team."

Eriksson provided Lehtonen with a lead by scoring 13 seconds. Mike Ribeiro's tap-in at 7:40 proved to be the game winner, and Eriksson added an insurance goal 1:42 into the third period when he one-timed Jamie Benn's backhand pass after Benn forced Francois Beauchemin into a giveaway near the end boards.

Anaheim had to play beat the clock for its lone goal -- the Ducks scored with 0.1 seconds remaining  to end a wild second period in which the Stars emerged clinging to a 2-1 lead. Corey Perry grabbed a loose puck in front of an open net and wristed it in one quick flick an instant time expired with Benn in the penalty box for hooking Perry.

The Ducks outshot the Stars 12-5 in the second and had Cam Fowler's apparent power-play goal waved off because Perry was whistled for goalie interference.

That 2-1 lead was notable given that Dallas hasn't lost when leading after the second period since Oct.31, 2009.

Many fans were still finding their seats when the Stars grabbed the lead. Eriksson backhanded a shot near the goal line that went off Beauchemin's stick and snuck past Hiller near the right goal post.

"It was a bad bounce," Hiller said. "We just weren't focused enough at the beginning of the game ... they were up 2-0 and it's tough to turn around. You're not going to get it for free. You have to keep working for it and I don't think we worked hard enough tonight."

Dallas kept forcing turnovers and turned one of them into the second goal when Alex Goligoski's shot from above the circles trickled through Hiller's pads into the crease, where Ribeiro tapped it in.

"Turnover fest," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said of the first 10 minutes.

"We looked like we were working in a restaurant flipping flapjacks: turning it over, turning it over, turning it over. We were in the middle of the ice trying to do too many things. We cannot play that way."

Anaheim has only allowed 12 goals in six games, but the Ducks haven't lit up the scoreboard with only 11 goals scored in that span. They've been a top-heavy team, too, with seven of those 11 goals coming from the top two lines.

Carlyle broke up his top trio of Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf in the third period when he replaced Ryan with Matt Beleskey and moved Ryan to the second line with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.

Lehtonen set the tone early when he stopped Andrew Cogliano in the first period and thwarted Selanne in front early in the second period.

"He's a world-class goalie," Carlyle said. "But I don't think we did enough as a team to generate enough consistent pressure, and anytime we did, there wasn't a lot of second opportunities, and we misfired on some of the best opportunities that we had."
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